It Takes a Library: It is Time to Change the Tone of the Conversation About the Future of Libraries #ittakesalibrary


Last night Emily Lloyd tweeted

YES THIS PLEASE! It is past time to change the tone of the conversation around the future of libraries. Nina McHale wrote 

I hope that in five years, the person next to one of us on a flight won’t say, “Do we need libraries, since everything is online?” They’ll get, instinctively, the inherent value of not just libraries, but LIBRARIANS to society.

Let’s not wait five years. Let’s start working to make that happen today. One of the things we can do is change the tone around the discussion of the future of libraries. How you frame your discussion matters and if librarians keep talking about how libraries need to be saved is it any wonder that our patrons and society believe we’re dying? We are basically telling them we are! So stop! Stop right now!

Instead we need to start framing the conversation like the powerful partners we are! Let’s make this hashtag happen! It is much more positive and affirmative than the save libraries rhetoric. I talked about this when I wrote Libraries are Powerful Partners last year.

we can show others (non librarians) how attractive libraries are as partners. We are the place where all literacies meet

I talked about it during the closing keynote at TechNet last year (sorry no slides) – walk into that room like you own it. When you introduce yourself as a librarian said it with pride, with conviction, because you bring something to the table. We have something to offer everyone.

David Lankes said it best in It is Time to Stop Trying to Save Libraries

Playing the role of the poor little library is not endearing, it is, frankly, embarrassing. Even when there is a financial crisis, or even when the community has a crisis of confidence, we should ask for support based on a track record of service and support. Run on your record not the promise to do better (or worse more of the same) in the future.

Let us also pledge that “Hi, I’m a librarian” doesn’t sound like an introduction at a 12 step meeting, but instead rings like a declaration of pride akin to “I’m the Goddamn Batman!”

I believe the future of libraries is bright. I believe that libraries improve society. I believe that libraries are key to positive social transformation. I believe that librarians are facilitators of knowledge. I believe that librarians are the most important assets of any library. It is in my demonstration of these beliefs that I help ensure the future of libraries and librarians. I don’t need to save libraries. Libraries have survived for over 3,000 years. Libraries have survived famine, plagues, prejudice, censorship, and anti-intellectualism well before either of us came along. I don’t need to save libraries, I need to help transform them. The test of that transformation is not in a building, or a collection, or a service, or even the librarians; it is in the achievements of the community.

So let’s stop talking about how libraries need saving and start talking about how libraries are powerful partners in their communities. It takes a library.

P.S. Thanks Emily

19 thoughts on “It Takes a Library: It is Time to Change the Tone of the Conversation About the Future of Libraries #ittakesalibrary

  1. Amen! Just did a presentation with my local state library association with a colleague who is not in our profession ( loves libraries though) and has decades of experience in the non-profit sector and is lib. She astutely observed that we need to shift our narrative from “begging” to empowered. To quote Malcom X, “It’s time to stop singing and start swinging!”


  2. My director kept telling us that, due to ebooks, libraries would be dead in 20 years and we’d all be out of a job. I wrote out a detailed map of how I would use all the adult space for children’s services, since the youth circulation has quadrupled and my attendance went from 300 to 11,000 in the five years I’ve been there. She doesn’t say that anymore (I still think an entire library dedicated to youth services would be cool though)


    1. wow. That is a horrible way for a library director to behave. I’m really sorry to hear that. Maybe s/he should consider retiring or changing professions. Bravo to you for dealing with it in a smart and fun way 🙂


      1. Oh no, she’s really not that bad (especially compared to some of the totally crazy directors at the surrounding libraries) she was just getting overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of media about ebooks and stuff and I got exasperated!


    2. Ooh! I want to see that since I’m in children’s and we make up the majority of our branch circulation 🙂


  3. Agreed! One of the big things I was taught when going through a week-long grant writing training was that people do not give to failure. They give to success — this is what people need, THIS is what we can do to fill those needs, and we just need your help to accomplish it.

    The other flaw in the save libraries campaigns I have seen is that they do little to convince anyone who’s not already convinced that libraries are important. There is an assumption that everyone who hears that libraries are in distress will believe it’s important to save them. This may be bolstered by some of the surveys that say most people believe a library is important … but I rank most of these with surveys that say most people approve of Mom, the flag and apple pie. You’re supposed to say a library is important. It’s socially acceptable. But will you go to bat for it?

    Libraries are amazing things. We need them to not just exist, but to be strong and vibrant.


  4. Dear Bobbi,

    Excellent food for thought. I stumbled upon your blog doing research for a new documentary film and trans-media project called Free For All: Inside the Public Library. I’m their social media intern. I thought your readers would like to hear about this exciting project. The film is in the early stages of production and we hope to ignite a national dialogue about the role libraries play in our immediate communities and in our democracy. So in five years no one will ask “do we need libraries….”. The film is in the early stages of production and we hope to ignite a national dialogue about the role libraries play in our immediate communities and in our democracy.

    If you like the project please help us spread the word, like and share us at or @freeforalltweet.

    If you’re having a crazy or lazy day and still would like to help, you could just copy and paste something like this:

    “This looks like an interesting film project by award-winning filmmakers: Free for All: Inside the Public Library. The film is in the early stages of production and will be the first in-depth look inside our free public library system. With public libraries constantly battling for funds to stay open, this film hopes to ignite a national dialogue about the role libraries play in our immediate communities and in our democracy. “Like” their FB page to see some of the work they are doing http://www.facebook/free4allfilm and help spread the word.”.

    Or not. Obviously, it’s your page and you’re the writer….Whatever you can do is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you in advance. If you need any further info, contact me at

    All the best,
    Carla Prates


  5. A great post. I started off a couple of years ago with a “save libraries” message but realised that that was being counterproductive, even though it is a powerful meme to use. I have used the “#ittakesalibrary” hashtag already and will continue doing so, in conjunction (as Alan says below) with reporting the cuts.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s